PAJAMA SLAVE DANCERS
by Eric Baylies
The Pajama Slave Dancers ruled college radio in the mid-1980s. Songs like “Defreeze Walt Disney” and “Homo Truck Driving Man” were regional hits that also found their way across the world. Singer Steve Westfield has also played in different bands with Rich Gilbert (Human Sexual Response/ Frank Black), Joey Santiago (Pixies), Lou Barlow (Sebadoh), and Chris Colbourn (Buffalo Tom). After 35 years of on and off being one of the best bands in the world, the Pajama Slave Dancers are still going strong. I had the chance to talk to singer- guitarist Steve Westfield about all things in the Pajamarama kingdom.
Noise: Tell me about the early days.
Steve: The Pajama Slave Dancers started in 1982 and released our first cassette that year. We sold out of an initial run of 300 at our local store after being trashed in the local paper, the Springfield Republican. They said we had “No redeeming value.”
Noise: To me, the band is serious, and fantastic, but there has always been an element of humor in it. Was this the intention at the beginning, or just kind of happened?
Steve: The music was always very primal and unserious (bad and stupid). We encouraged “fans” to hate us – boo and throw beer on the band. We forced audience members play the instruments. We openly fought each other and broke each others equipment. We were thrown out of EVERY club we played on an East Coast tour with Barrence Whitfield. All in the name of fun. To get out as much energy as 20 years-olds could on the weekend. We called it having “as much fun as we could stand.”
Noise: Did you really get thrown out of every club?
Steve: Yes. Every club. We played with the Violent femmes at UMass and made $650 but we broke $650 worth of sound equipment. We broke through the suspended ceiling at The Middle East, knocked over the soundboard at Chet’s. (A fight broke out between a motorcycle club and the wedding party!) Daxe in particular became nude often when drinking.
Noise: What was the biggest violation in a club’s eyes?
Steve: What got us in a lot of trouble, besides slam dancing, stage diving etc… was killing giant stuffed animals and spreading foam pellets everywhere. We did get favorable write ups in People and Spin magazines somehow.
Noise: How did you all get together?
Steve: We all knew each other from our neighborhood, and Dave and Scott are cousins, and Dave and Steve were eventually brothers-in-law.
Noise: What were your goals as a band in the early days?
Steve: No attempt was made to make it. We turned down a tour with Mojo Nixon. We turned down a record offer from Gerard Cosloy.
Noise: The guy from Matador Records?
Steve: Yes, Matador. We didn’t agree on how the record should be recorded, and we decided to do it ourselves. It was a lot of work – film positives for each color – mastering , etc… complicated pre-digital stuff. We consigned LP’s through Newbury comics and Toxic Shock. Interestingly, we mailed many records to Seattle in the early ’80s. Of course, Dinosaur jr. signed with Matador at the same time we refused, and went on to bigger things. Oh well.
We self-produced all our first cassettes, then LPs, then CDs. We put on our own shows in Polish halls, Grange Halls, etc… (with Flipper, Husker Du, the Big Boys, DYS…). We somehow got into a local blues club and paved the way for The Pixies, and had Dinorsaur Jr. open up for Pajama Slave Dancers for their first college show. By the late ’80s we were headlining Chets, then Johnny D’s, then the Rat. Still with the same old mess of a show and kept trucking through the ’90s.
Noise: Why did you turn down Mojo Nixon? That seems like a money maker, especially back then.
Steve: Mojo was huge. (Stuffin Martha’s muffin). We just thought he was stupid.
Noise: Bring us up to date on the group today.
Steve: We stopped for a 15 years to have babies and travel and work. Now we have started playing (again as our children have grown) – still the same five guys! Daxe Rexford – guitar, Dirk Futon drums, Steve Westfield – vocals guitar, Dave Montovani – vocals guitar, and Scott Blood -bass.
Noise: Will there be any new records coming out at some point?
Steve: We are in the middle of a new release… recording. We decided we would do it, if we made a very funny record. We are trying…
Noise: Are there any touring plans right now?
Steve: No, No tours. Too messy… too hard to do two nights in a row.
Noise: Where can people go see you?
Steve: We plan to play Boston twice a year (maybe starting with Midway Cafe?) and we are talking to Providence as well.
Noise: Thanks Steve. Kids, go check out the Pajama Slave Dancers when you get a chance. They are one of the best live bands in history. Steve Westfield has toured Europe six times with another band, the Steve Westfield Slow Band, and presently has a ska band named Beige that is playing Green River Festival on July 15.